“Don’t call me Naomi,” she told them. “Call me Mara, because the Almighty has made my life very bitter.” ~ Ruth 1:20
Naomi means pleasant. Mara means bitter.
When I read that, I told my closest friends I felt like I should change my name to Mara and wear a scarlet B on my clothing, like in The Scarlet Letter. I didn’t need to wear a ‘B’ it was evident in my demeanor that I was bitter.
When I think back to my attitude several years ago I just want to apologize to everyone I knew at that time. I can hardly bear to remember how bitter, pessimistic and depressed I was. I would not want to be around me. I could not see anything positive at all. I was stuck. And worse, I was convinced that my life would never change, that it would never get any better. Thank you to those who stuck by me in my season of despair.
I wish I could say that I saw the light and snapped out of it quickly. I did not. My journey through bitterness lasted years. I read a few really good Christian books and went through all the old counseling material that I had from my counselor several years prior to try to make sense of my feelings. I prayed and prayed for God to take away the situation, to move me, to make it better. Nothing changed and I sank further away. My mind kept telling myself that what was in the books and even the Bible didn’t apply to me and good things were for everyone except me. I felt pretty hopeless. One day God spoke to me in his very quiet way and told me to accept it and stop fighting.
Here I am thinking why on earth would God tell me this? What kind of crap life has God destined me for? Why?? Where was my Abundant Life?? Accept it and stop fighting? I was not exactly jumping for joy. Accept it and stop fighting… At this time Ann Voskamp’s book One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are came out. I don’t remember how I heard about it, but the title intrigued me. Her style of writing is rather poetic and I had a very hard time getting into the book. But the gist of it was to find something to be thankful for, no matter how small. I started to take this to heart. I had also started running around this time too. My story is HERE. I distinctly remember seeing a wildflower (or weed, depending on how you look at it) blooming in horse crap. This is where my slow transformation began. I saw a poor flower surrounded by thorns and crap and felt sorry for it. But friends helped me see for the first time that God wanted me to shine no matter where I was or whatever my circumstances were. He wanted more from me and for me. He wanted me to be content no matter what else was going on around me.
God wanted me to see that He was all around me. I started to notice little things – the sunlight catching a tree branch, birds singing. God used these little things to bring himself to the forefront of my mind. I started to focus more on him. I started to see what was true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable – whatever was excellent or praiseworthy – God called me to think on these things. (Phil 4:8)
This was a long process for me. Years. I struggled with my old self and the natural tendency of my thoughts to go to the negative, and to think the worst and my new self that I was becoming, a supernatural changing of my thinking that maybe things weren’t as bad as I thought, that there was some good not only in the world, but even in my own circumstances.
You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. Ephesians 4:22-24
God was changing my attitude in my mind. Slowly but surely there was a change, and it is still an ongoing process. But I had to let go. I had to accept it and stop fighting. And when I finally started to really live this, that is when God changed my circumstances, that is when he moved me. I have days where I struggle and don’t want to fight for joy, but I don’t stay there anymore. God truly has changed me. Hallelujah!
If you had asked me 5 years ago if this was possible I would have said no. But here’s the crazy thing. If God had answered my prayers the way I wanted back then, to move me, change my circumstances, etc. I would have never become who I am today. I would still be fighting any uncomfortable situation and see things negatively. In His love and mercy, He patiently walked me through this process. I wish I was a faster learner.
If you are struggling to see any light, any change, any hope – please don’t give up. God does want more from you and for you too. Turn your eyes to him. Find something no matter how small to be thankful for – the sun peaking through the clouds, the smell of brewing coffee, a really hot shower, your car that gets you places even if it’s not pretty. These are good gifts. Take notice and give thanks.
Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like the shifting shadows. James 1:17
Paul tells us the secret of contentment in every situation is Christ in him. Phil 4:11-13 It is not easy nor come naturally, but with Christ, we can find contentment. He loves us too much to give us everything we want because he knows exactly what we need.